Maybe you’ve built your startup to a certain size and now you want to get into a higher gear. Maybe you’re running an established business that needs to up its game in the face of change. Or, maybe you just want a strategic partner to help you innovate and try something new. Whatever your reasons, working with someone like me, or one of the talented people on this list, is a huge step and one you want to take confidently.
In the three years since I started working independently, I’ve had numerous conversations with people like you about how best to approach some of their biggest brand and marketing-related challenges. Most (42 to be exact) lead to projects, some didn’t (17, since you ask), and in that time some questions and queries came up over and over. So, if you’re building a brand and thinking of engaging a brand strategist, here’s some things to consider.
The brief doesn’t have to be perfect
Let’s be honest, if you knew exactly what you needed you’d probably be sorting it out yourself. So instead, treat me like a brand doctor (in business-forward athleisure rather than scrubs), come armed with a list of symptoms and let me triage the right solutions. For example, you may present with:
“I’m struggling to explain what makes us different”
“We aren’t getting noticed by the right people”
“We keep re-writing our website copy — it doesn’t sounds like us”
By starting with symptoms like these, we can define the brief and the plan together, making the project more likely to run smoothly from beginning to end.
Show me the money
Or just tell me about it. You’ve got a business to run, I’ve got a business to run. If you let me know what you’re looking to spend, I can tell you what’s possible. Being open about this stuff saves painful back and forth removing line items or squeezing timelines. Yes, I have a day rate, but I can be smart about how a project is structured and who I bring in for support. And, by collaborating on the brief as per my first recommendation, I can advise you where best to invest your budget and where you can make savings.
Dream big, but plan for reality
Generally, the initial phases of a strategic project are about getting clear on who you are, why you’re here, and what you’re doing — it can be a truly exhilarating, creative time spent defining your grand ambition, your bold vision and your awe-inspiring image of the future. But the sugar-high of Definition can quickly fade to tears at bedtime when it comes to Activation, when all those dreams need to be brought down to earth, and to life by your team, or encapsulated on your homepage, or translated into a job spec. So plan to let me help.
Instead of asking for boilerplate or example copy, have me write actual copy that stress-tests your strategy and can be used right away. Think, your About Us page, the introductory pages of your investor deck, or even a script for a brand film — all created in tandem with your Tone of Voice and Messaging Guidelines.
Instead of getting overwhelmed, arrange for me to help recruit and train the team/suppliers/experts you’ll need moving forward. In the past year alone I’ve run various pitch processes of other suppliers (e.g. PR), I’ve made helpful introductions to other specialists, and I’ve lead the recruitment and training of three awesome marketing managers for my clients.
Instead of worrying about taking the training wheels off, ask to keep me signed into your Slack channel for a couple of weeks past the end of the project. Sometimes, if you’re nice, I won’t even charge for this!
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh FREAK OUT!
Accept that you might have a little wobble at some point in the project. You are being brave, you’re taking risks, you’ve making serious and dramatic change. That is terrifying. I get it, but I’m also a little more used to it than you are, and can offer real support and partnership throughout it all. The best thing to do when the “what the f**k am I doing?” strikes is to give yourself a break and talk to me about the things you’re worried about. I try to stay close and connected, so as to be in tune with your thinking and alert to any possible hitches. But we’re all people, and even the very best strategist can miss a trick. So, stay open, trust the process, and be ready to build the successful, effective brand you want one step at a time. It’s going to be great :)